Not what you want to see at any time, but especially at the start of a new season.
The mercurial utility Roy ‘Crackling’ Pork and journeyman maverick Wayne ‘Spanks’ Spankle give the straight dope on sport’s most pressing issues.
SPANKS: Here we are at the pointy end Crackling, and Richmond and Hawthorn have to play on Thursday night. What do you reckon?
CRACKLING: It’s a disgrace, Spanks. Think of the kiddies with school the next day. Think of the shift workers. Think of the bakers.
SPANKS: Somehow, in fixturing, nobody ever thinks of the bakers, and frankly it makes me sick.
CRACKLING: When was it decided that Thursday night was a footy night? I don’t remember getting a vote, but back at Wahroonga Primary they told me this was a democracy.
SPANKS: Thursday’s a night for training as far as I’m concerned. Get out there for a good tough run, hit those bags, then grab a sausage sanger in the clubhouse, bit of tomato sauce, beautiful. How will these players squeeze in a barbie when they have to play a final the same night as training?
CRACKLING: It’s a travesty, Spanks, and it shows one thing that I’ve been saying forever and a day: the AFL is out of touch.
SPANKS: So out of touch.
CRACKLING: So far out of touch, touch is but a speck in the distance.
SPANKS: Of course the bigwigs have hit back, saying that the AFL extends beyond Victoria.
CRACKLING: They say that, but it’s news to me.
SPANKS: Moving on, who do you like in the AFL finals?
CRACKLING: I don’t think anyone can beat Richmond. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if Richmond wins all four finals in the first week. I don’t see how Hawthorn beats them, but I don’t see how Geelong or Melbourne beats them either. That’s how good they are – they win games they’re not even playing.
SPANKS: Collingwood’s dangerous though, isn’t it?
CRACKLING: Absolutely, although only to walk through at night.
SPANKS: One round left in the NRL too, and it’s all about jockeying for finals positions. Sharkies looking good?
CRACKLING: The Sharks are flying. They’ve got the prime minister in their pocket, and as long as Shane Flanagan keeps calling Andrew Fifita a fat sack of poo every day, I think they might go all the way.
SPANKS: I know the Storm is on top, but they look vulnerable. They only beat the Titans by two points, and you’d think a genuine premiership contender could put fifty points on the Titans without even showing up till halfway through the second half.
CRACKLING: On the other hand, their defence is solid, and Cam Smith’s engineers have reinforced his titanium spinal structure, so you can’t count them out. And in many ways being minor premiers is a sign of being a decent team.
SPANKS: What about the Broncos?
CRACKLING: The Broncos are looking extremely scary right now. Particularly to that lady and her son in New York.
SPANKS: I think the Roosters are foxing.
CRACKLING: Is this that puzzle with the boat and the bag of grain?
SPANKS: No, I mean I think they’ve deliberately lost form to lull us into a false sense of security. When the finals start, they’ll click into gear. There’s a real possibility they might win the whole thing, and then we’ll see up to eight or nine ecstatic fans rampaging round Bondi.
CRACKLING: It’s always the way when the Roosters win the big one. The eastern suburbs report an increase of one or two drinks sold that night.
SPANKS: It’s a real shame the Raiders aren’t going to feature in the finals. They’ve got huge forwards, big fast backs, an exciting game style, and they’d have been a real handful in September if Ricky Stuart had figured out how to teach them to defend.
CRACKLING: It’s funny, because Ricky was always a pretty good defender.
SPANKS: Well what he needs to do is sit Joey Leilua down and show him some videos of Mal Meninga’s defensive work. Then, while Joey’s watching the videos, get the rest of the team quietly on the bus and rush to the game before Joey’s noticed you’ve gone.
CRACKLING: Mind you, Joey would get a game for the Wallabies these days.
SPANKS: But Michael Hooper says he wouldn’t swap any of his team for any of the All Blacks.
CRACKLING: I assume that’s because he knows any victories would be declared null after the IRB discovered none of the Australian team was Australian. It can’t be for their playing ability, because right now the Wallabies are suffering from something we struggled with back in my playing days. I remember when I was with the Doggies, and we got flogged by the Eagles, and the coach diagnosed the problem as TAMBTUS.
SPANKS: What’s TAMBTUS?
CRACKLING: They Are Much Better Than Us Syndrome.
SPANKS: Michael Cheika is angry that people are questioning his position, but you have to think that if Nancy Kerrigan is available, the ARU will move fast to sign her up.
CRACKLING: If there’s one thing a life in sport teaches you, Spanks, it’s that sometimes a crowbar to the knee is all that’s left.
SPANKS: I’ll drink to that.